AUBURN, Ala. — As he boarded Auburn’s team bus to Montgomery, quarterback Cam Newton made his first declarative statements since allegations about his recruitment went public Thursday.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Newton said. “I’m blessed to be at Auburn right now. I’m sure the smoke will settle. I’m looking forward to the game tomorrow.”
Newton has been at the center of a controversy since ESPN.com published a report Thursday saying former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers, who claimed to represent the Newton family’s interests, requested a six-figure payment for the quarterback to sign with the Bulldogs last year.
A person familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Auburn had “no contact whatsoever” with Rogers. The school has not received an NCAA letter of inquiry regarding the matter.
Rogers, who responded for the first time on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM in Dallas Friday night, said he’s never asked for money for a recruit and emphasized that he’s never had contact with Auburn.
“No. No. No,” he said. “None at all. None at all.”
In ESPN.com’s original report, former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond said he was approached by an ex-teammate from the early 1980s — identified by the website through unnamed sources as Rogers — claiming to be from Newton’s camp. He sought $180,000 to secure the quarterback’s services.
Bond, who lives in Madison, Miss., and is the director of business for Eutaw Construction, said he took the information directly to then-Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne, who relayed it to the SEC offices.
Rogers works for a company called Elite Football Preparation, which finds colleges for football prospects. He said he spoke with Newton’s father, Cecil, during the quarterback’s official visit to Starkville for last year’s Mississippi State-Ole Miss game on Nov. 28.
Rogers said the two spoke casually about the culture of a small town like Starkville. He said he didn’t meet Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen in person until Cecil Newton introduced the two.
“I have no idea where my name came up in this,” Rogers said.
Rogers isn’t only being scrutinized by the NCAA. According to the AP, the NFL Players Association filed a disciplinary complaint against Chicago-based agent Ian Greengross on Friday. The NFLPA has identified Rogers as a “recruiter” for Greengross and is looking into his involvement with players.
Newton signed with Auburn on Dec. 31 last year out of Blinn (Texas) Community College and is a prime Heisman Trophy candidate after leading the Tigers to a 9-0 record and No. 2 spot in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.
Cecil Newton denied his family ever asked for or received money and has cooperated with the NCAA investigation by turning over financial statements. He called the allegations “unfounded” and questioned the timing of the report.
All of this hasn’t affected Newton, who was asked what the last 24 hours have been like.
“It’s been all right,” he said. “I’ve had worse days. God has continuously blessed me throughout this process — me and my family, and most importantly this team.”
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said emphatically Thursday that the quarterback’s eligibility is not in question today against Chattanooga, a Football Championship Subdivision team.
“Here’s what I can say loud and clear: Cameron Newton is eligible at Auburn University. Period. End of story,” he said during his weekly call-in radio show.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, speaking during his regular Friday appearance on the Auburn-Opelika This Morning radio show, said the school has known about the issue for some time.
Multiple reports, citing anonymous sources, say the school’s compliance department was informed of the situation this summer. After an investigation, it found no reason to hold Newton out of games.
“What went on (Thursday), what came out, was no surprise to us,” Jacobs said. “We have known about that for quite some time.
“One thing I do want to say is just like we have always done, we will continue to protect Auburn. We will do what is in the best interests of Auburn.
“We are not going to get into the gray area with any rules. We are going to have coaches and staff who are people of character and integrity.”